Sudden soccer enthusiasts turned bar patrons in Boston and across the nation faced a problem yesterday, they wanted to watch the U.S-Germany game, they wanted to drink beer while they did it and there were not seats in any bars in any American city. It’s a problem that recurs in people’s lives—on special sports holidays like the Super Bowl or the World Series, or just on regular Friday nights when everyone has the same idea and goes to the same place.
It is the critical situation hockey fan and entrepreneur Jamie Manning found himself in last year during the Bruins run in the NHL playoffs.
(Jump to 2:15) “So during the Bruins playoffs last year and I was running around town going to different bars, trying to watch the Burins in the playoffs. Went to the first bar, didn’t have any luck didn’t have any seats. Jumped in a cab went across town to Somerville to my local bars where I thought I would have some seats open. Got in there, completely packed. Jumped back in the cab ended up listening to the game in the back of the cab with the cab driver trying to find a bar stool. When I go to a bar I hate to stand up, hold my drink, fight the crowd to get a drink. There is something romantic about sitting at the bar; you get the best service, you get the best view of the TV and the best part you get to talk to the bartender—it’s just something special about being in a bar. I would rather not be in a bar if I don’t have a barstool, and that was our “Ah-ha” moment.”
From there Manning and his co-founder Adriano Varassin went on to see if other people would pay for a barstool if they could during an important or high traffic time. When that yielded a round of resounding “yes”, the moved on to doing some formal surveying to see if there was a demand for the OpenTable of bar service—that despite the time honored tradition of bar seats being first come, first serve many people were excited to have a different option.
If you build it, they will come–and they will buy beer is the motto Snag-A-Stool was founded under, and it is an idea that starting to take off now in beta. The service is simple–by logging into the mobile app, potential patrons will be given a list of bars accepting reservations. With a few button clicks, patrons reserve their spot at the bar in units of two or four, and are given a digital receipt that can then be flashed at the bartender or bouncer. No lines, no waiting, and no standing.
But why would merchants want to be involved in this? After all, patrons want seats in bars, but bars don’t have problems filling themselves with people excited to watch the U.S. move to the second round of the World Cup.
For one, Manning, it is not always the Super Bowl or the World Cup—and bars have a reason to guarantee traffic.
Second, access to customers looking for places, gives bars an ability to build mobile rewards programs
(Jump to 5:30) “Things like Groupon or LivingSocial, the bars have discovered don’t create a ton of loyalty. People who like those deals go where the deals are at. So it might bring them into a bar one time but its not going to bring them in over and over again because they are following the deals. But with Snag-a-Stool your bartender will no your name…we really believe that with a little special service for any guest you can turn any customer into a regular customer.”
Finally, by using this app, Snag-a-Stool offers the bars a chance to make money. Unlike OpenTable, which charges restaurants to use their service, Snag-a-Stool wants to split the charge of reserving a stool with their merchants. This only applies to stools that are charged for, Manning did note that there are premium times where stools cost money, and non-premium times where reserving a stool is offered as a free service.
The start-up is at its very early phase of development, and is still in beta in a handful of bars in the greater Boston area. But, they are onboarding new merchants every day, and dream of time when no one will have to stand in a bar during a sporting event, first date, office happy hour or visit to a new city ever again.
And, they are getting attention. A&E recently featured the company in its Project Startup Live programming. Project StartUp features a backstage look at new ventures, Snag-A-Stool didn’t get picked for the regular run, but were the runner up in the Boston area completion round and are feature on the program.
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